Day 1: San Ignacio
You will land at Philip S.W. Goldson Airport in Belize City. While you are already on the mainland, it is a good idea to head West to the gorgeous town of San Ignacio. There are a few different options for getting to San Ignacio: you can catch a taxi from the airport to the main bus station (BZ$50; $25USD) and from there hop on a bus headed for Benque (BZ$8; $4USD). Alternatively, you can arrange to get a shuttle service from the airport which will typically run you $70-$120USD.
Day 2: San Ignacio Town
There is a ton of stuff to do in and around San Ignacio Town. Honestly, I would say you could easily spend a week just here alone. But for the sake of this blog post, I will focus on the big ticket items:
Tikal (Yax Mutal)
This is a very large Maya ruins site that is actually located in Guatemala, but definitely should be at the top of your list to see when visiting San Ignacio Town. This is a massive archaeological site and will take you most of the day to explore (including the 2 hours travel time there and back). Tikal was most definitely a political superpower in its time and recent discoveries have shown that it took the joint forces of Caracol, Xunantunich and Mexico’s Calakmul, to bring down the powerful Tikal. This history of this city-state goes back to roughly 800BC and it was among the largest city-states in all of the Americas. There is evidence to show that its influence extended throughout the Maya area.
Personally, I feel the best way to visit Tikal is with a tour company. They make the border crossing a breeze, the trip is direct and then you have a tour guide while you are actually at Tikal. A guide will absolutely come in handy as there is so much to see and learn. If you had a rental car, I suppose you could drive yourself, but be really careful that you are clear on your rental car policy. You may not be able to take it out of the country. The bus takes about 5.5 hours, each way, with many stops and transfers. So if you are planning on taking the bus, you will likely need to spend a couple nights in Guatemala.
Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM Cave)
Without a doubt this was my favourite activity in Belize. It was my first time ever in a cave and I will always remember it! This excursion must be done with a tour guide so you will have to find one that suits you best, in San Ignacio. This is a full day adventure so be prepared with water, snacks, good shoes that you can get wet, socks, your swimsuit, an extra set of clothes, and a good hearty breakfast! Don't worry though, your tour company will tell you everything that you need to have ready for this amazing day.
Your day will start with a 45 minutes hike through the jungle. Don’t worry, it’s not too strenuous. Upon arriving at the cave entrance, you will have to swim across a cool pool to actually get inside the cave. From there, be prepared wade in water for roughly a kilometer, at varying depths (ankle to shoulder). Once you get into the inner chamber you will be asked to take off your shoes, but leave your socks on. People tend to be more cautious of where they step when they aren’t wearing shoes and there are sacrificial remains of pottery all over the cave, that will be damaged if they are stepped on. Leave your socks on prevents the oils from our skin from damaging the sensitive limestone. Now that you are in the inner chamber, your mind will be blown! Within the cave there are about 14 skeletal remains, with one of them being the “Crystal Maiden” - a calcified skeleton whose bones sparkle from the crystallization. Amazing stuff!
Day 3: San Ignacio
Caracol & Mountain Pine Ridge Nature Reserve
Set out on another full day of exploring and check out a combined tour of Caracol and the Rio on Pools and Rio Frio Cave in the Mountain Pine Ridge Nature Reserve. Caracol is really only accessible if you have a 4WD vehicle with high clearance, and the road into the Mountain Pine Ridge Nature Reserve can also be rough. These sites are best explored with a tour company. It can be a long day of exploration too, so why not let someone else do the driving.
Caracol is the largest Maya ruins site in all of Belize and is also home to the Sky Palace which is the largest manmade structure in the country. Once you've explored this site, treat yourself to a dip in the refreshing Rio on Pools. Here, small waterfalls connect pools that the river has carved out of granite boulders. Cozy up under one of the little waterfalls, let it run over your shoulders, and it will be the most glorious massage. You will also get to check out the Rio Frio Cave which is a large cave originally used as a Maya mausoleum. You can wander in and explore on your own. There are large entrances at the front and the back making it easy to see and a flashlight unnecessary. Depending on the tour you take as well, there may be a stop at the 1000 Foot Falls or the Big Rock Falls.
Xunantunich, Cave Tubing, & Ziplining
Enjoy an action packed day exploring the second largest Maya ruins site in Belize, followed up with a zip through the jungle canopy. There is a series of 6-8 platforms that you will get to zipline on. Then sit back and relax on a tube while you cruise through one of Belize's many cave river systems. While tubing, you will get to learn about the history and geology of the limestone caves that Belize is so famous for. It is possible to separate this activity into 2 separate days, and if you want, you can easily take a bus from San Ignacio Town to Xunantunich and explore it on your own. The Cave Tubing and Zipline require a guide so for the sake of this 7 day itinerary, it is best to do it all in one day.
Day 4: Caye Caulker
Make your way back to Belize City, to the water taxi dock, and catch a water taxi headed to Caye Caulker. The trip from Belize City should take roughly 45 minutes and cost $18USD one way.
Take this day and enjoy all Caye Caulker has to offer. This rustic little island has the most wonderful “Go Slow” Caribbean vibe. In fact, that is the island’s motto and if the locals feel like you’re a little too speedy, they’ll be sure to remind you to “go slow”. Hang out at the Split, work on your tan by lounging at the beach or on the docks, rent a kayak and cruise through the nature reserve on the other side of the split, eat some good food, drink some good drinks, and relax!
Day 5: Caye Caulker
Hop on a tour and take a trip out to Hol Chan for some amazing snorkeling. Most of the tour companies on the island offer half day and full day excursions. I highly recommend the full day because you will get to experience so much more. Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley is where you can swim with the sharks and stingrays. This is actually one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life! You’ll also get to snorkel at the coral garden and see the Belize Barrier Reef up close. It is absolutely stunning and the colours are so vibrant. If you’re really lucky, like I was, you will get to see a manatee and swim with it for a little while! The full day tours often also include the sunken barge where you can snorkel and dive into a small shipwreck.
Day 6: San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
You are still on island time so be sure to spend another day relaxing! Head from Caye Caulker over to San Pedro, on Ambergris Caye. San Pedro is the main town on Ambergris Caye and is full of things to do. You can get adventurous, rent a golf cart, and go explore the many beaches and nature reserves that Ambergris Caye has to offer, or you can hang out in San Pedro. If you stay in town, there is lots of shopping, eating and drinking to be done. The Belize Chocolate Factory is located in San Pedro so if chocolate is your thing, this is the right spot. The food in San Pedro is lovely and there is a wide variety. The vibe here is still very laid-back but it offers a tab bit more hustle than Caye Caulker. Out of the Belizean Cayes, San Pedro is a little more known for its party scene.
Day 7: Belize City
Sadly, your 7 days in Belize has come to an end. From Caye Caulker, head back to Belize City to catch your flight home.
If you are looking to spend a little more time in Belize our Concierge Package is available and it is a full itinerary for Caye Caulker, San Pedro, San Ignacio, and Placencia. If you are wanting to work on a customized vacation plan, I would be happy to work with you to create the Belizean adventure of your dreams.